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Sean Clifford, Jonathan Sutherland Named To Preseason Award Watch Lists

Two more Nittany Lions found themselves on preseason watch lists Thursday, as starting quarterback Sean Clifford was named to the Wuerffel Trophy’s preseason watch list, while linebacker/safety hybrid Jonathan Sutherland was named to the Hornung Award’s watch list.

The Wuerffel Trophy honors “the FBS player who best combines exemplary community service with leadership achievement on and off the field,” according to the award’s website. The Hornung Award recognizes college football’s most versatile player.

Clifford was previously named to the 2020 and 2021 Wuerffel Trophy watch lists. If he were to win, he’d become the first Nittany Lion to ever receive the honor.

Last season, Clifford led Penn State to a 5-0 start and a top-four ranking in the AP Top 25 Poll at one point. An unfortunate injury led to an offensive collapse that the team failed to overcome. Despite the troubles, Clifford still finished the year with 3,107 passing yards, 21 touchdowns, and a 61% completion percentage

Off the field, Clifford has been a national figure in the NCAA’s Name, Image, and Likeness expansion. In January, the quarterback filed paperwork to found a student-athlete-led NIL firm: Limitless.

“It’s the agency that I was looking for that I couldn’t find,” Clifford told ESPN in April. “It’s for the players, by the players. I wanted to do something to leave even more of a legacy than just on the field. And I thought that this was kind of the way that I wanted to go.”

Recently, Clifford was the central figure in reports about a budding independent players association at Penn State. Clifford clarified the nature of the reported developments, explaining he had been meeting with coaches, university leaders, and decision-makers in the Big Ten to advocate for an enhanced student-athlete experience.

“As a student-athlete at Penn State, and a member of the football team, I have had very positive and open discussions… about the changing landscape of college sports,” Clifford wrote in a statement. “I am grateful to be a part of team, university, and conference where our leadership is truly open to listening and learning from its students to further strengthen and safeguard our academic and competitive experiences.”

It has been a busy preseason for Clifford on the watch list front. Earlier in July, Clifford was named to watch lists for the Maxwell Award (recognizing the best NCAA player in the country) and the Davey O’Brien Award (recognizing college football’s best quarterback).

Redshirt senior Jonathan Sutherland was named Penn State’s first-ever player to don the No. 0 jersey, signifying his on-field production and off-field leadership. Part of that distinction comes from his willingness to fill the team’s gaps.

Despite playing safety for the majority of his career, Sutherland shifted to a linebacker role for the 2022 Outback Bowl after the Nittany Lions’ defense was decimated by opt-outs and injuries. At James Franklin’s spring ball press conference, the head coach told the media Sutherland would officially convert to a linebacker for the 2022 season.

The ability to code-switch between positions is the type of versatility the Hornung Award recognizes. If Sutherland can improve upon last year’s 24 tackles and one interception, he may end up a contender for the honor.

Penn State has only had one Hornung Award winner in its history — Saquon Barkley in 2017. The most recent success for the program was in 2018 when KJ Hamler was named a semifinalist.

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About the Author

Sam Fremin

Sam is a senior from Ashburn, Virginia, majoring in journalism and political science & minoring in German and creative writing. He is a Dallas Cowboys fan who relishes the misery of Eagles fans. All hate messages can be sent to [email protected] or @SamFremin on Twitter.

He may or may not read every single comment he gets.

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